WNBA … Fantastic!: By Sloane Martin

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In the aftermath of my WNBA thrashing of earlier this week, many people were pretty pissed. One of those was Sloane Martin, who called me an idiot. According to her Twitter account, Sloane is a “College student. Feminist. Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A affiliate of the MN Twins) production intern this summer. Aspiring on-air talent.”

Anyhow, I’ve invited her to blog her support of the WNBA here. And I’m thankful she accepted …

When I think of the WNBA, I think of intimidating, solid 6-foot-4 women with freak-of-nature athleticism, vision and speed.

When mainstream sports fans thinks of the WNBA, they think freaks. They think slow, unathletic, masculine, unattractive freaks.

A WNBA player to me is someone who has most likely obtained a college degree. She sacrifices her entire life for the game by playing year-round in rural Turkey for seven months a year to make a living.

A WNBA player to the mainstream sports fan can’t dunk like Dwight Howard or fly like LeBron James, making the women’s game not worth a damn.

And that’s why I’m left constantly trying to stick for this game, for this league. If you don’t like it, that’s fine—I just expect sports fans to recognize the skill and basketball intelligence these women possess. I don’t care for tennis or college football, but I respect the athletes involved. A Ryan Miller sprawling save is just as beautiful as a Diana Taurasi cross-over step-back three—the best on Earth doing what they do. A Tamika Catchings drive to the hoop gives you chills like Whitney Houston singing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV.

When people criticize the WNBA’s ratings, attendance, and revenue, I’m reminded of the NHL. A few years ago, there was no market for hockey. The almighty Stanley Cup was getting ratings under 2. Personally, I knew nothing about hockey before I moved to Western New York from Southern California. That was until I saw the best of the best play. No one, including myself, cared about hockey, but the Vancouver Olympics got me hooked. Just because no one cares about women’s basketball now, doesn’t mean people never will.

Like any sports fan, I enjoy competition. Another similarity is that my sports career is sadly over, forcing me to live vicariously through my favorite athletes. I’m proud to follow WNBA players and look up to them. I hope other young girls realize this, too. Yeah, I’m going the role model route, but the importance of good role models is very important during female adolescence (trust me, I’ve been through it.) The fact that WNBA players are professional athletes proves that girls don’t have to conform and that it’s ok to take on the ‘masculine’ traits of sports.

Another plus for the WNBA, basketball is not pretty. Well, the game itself is (especially when the Phoenix Mercury play—highly recommended), but it’s also gritty and painful and aggressive. Exactly the way women are not expected to be and I love that basketball is the antithesis of femininity. This isn’t softball with glitter make-up and giant bows. This isn’t lacrosse or hockey where physical contact is outlawed. This is basketball with the same rims, same floor, played differently.

I’ll admit that a portion of my support of the WNBA is due to indignation. It’s like I give my vote to Ralph Nader just to screw the mainstream parties and all their minions. I don’t want for it to be this way. I want to love the league solely because of the quality of the game and the players, not just out of spite. But this is the way it is—and until things are fair (or try to even out), I will keep harsh anti-WNBA opinions as a chip on my shoulder.

For now, the WNBA represents a perfect niche where I don’t have to deal with boorish sports fans and interact with people who genuinely know the game. But I hope that the league gets more mainstream support. I want these women to get positive, consistent recognition and coverage for their efforts. It’s an issue of fairness, and the way this league is treated now is not fair. Whether that happens will remain to be seen, but in the meantime, these women deserve respect at the very least.

19 thoughts on “WNBA … Fantastic!: By Sloane Martin”

  1. So the reasons to like the WNBA are:

    — Intimidating women
    — Women who finished college
    — WNBA basketball isn’t pretty, except for when one franchise plays it
    — WNBA basketball is just like other basketball, except that it’s played differently
    — The WNBA is like voting for Ralph Nader (that should be on a t-shirt, BTW)

    Whoa! With these reasons, how can I NOT be a WNBA fan?

    And to sum it up, you’re glad it’s a niche sport but you wish that it would get more popular.

    “A Ryan Miller sprawling save is just as beautiful as a Diana Taurasi cross-over step-back three—the best on Earth doing what they do.”

    Diana Taurasi is not the best person on Earth doing cross-over, step-back three. The NBA is full of guys who can do it better. Taurasi may be the best woman who can do it, but she’s not the best person on Earth. Not even close.

    And you keep bringing up “fairness”. What has anyone done to the WNBA that is unfair? It’s on ESPN and ABC. It’s commercials run during the NBA Finals. It gets equal billing with the NBA during the NBA weekend. There have been countless articles written about the WNBA. And has been around for more than a decade.

    I’m not sure what more can done to jam this league down our collective throats. People simply don’t want to watch women playing hoops. It’s really that simple.

  2. so we should care because they try hard and have college degrees? sorry. we watch sports to be entertained. and watching what is basically an 8th grade cyo game isnt entertaining

  3. “A Tamika Catchings drive to the hoop gives you chills like Whitney Houston singing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV.”

    It doesn’t give you chills like a Santonio Holmes catch in the back of the end zone during a Super Bowl, however. Which is the problem with the WNBA. As a league, they still haven’t figured out how to market themselves. Most people would rather watch Whitney Houston sing the National Anthem for a Super Bowl than a WNBA game.

    I suppose any press is good press, however, since before Jeff’s column the other day I forgot that the WNBA still existed.

  4. It is a lot more exciting than Baseball.
    I’m sure none of the players are napping while on the bench, like one of my all time fav’s Griffy.

  5. Thanks Sloane, I feel exactly as you do! But I would disagree only that the WNBA is not pretty to watch..except when the Merc play..true, they are the most exciting and a fun to watch, but so are many other teams that don’t get as much recognition. I too am a relentless defender of the WNBA and proud to do so. These are women at the very top of their sport, deserving of respect and admiration, not to mention money, endorsements and air time. The endorsements are there for many of the top players already, so they make a very good living, the money for the rest will come, as will the air time. Remember, no one gave a damn about the NBA for decades either! Thanks for the thoughtful, insightful and well written response to yet another woman-WNBA bashing male “opinion”. The WNBA will be around, will continue to flourish as long as people like us are there to support, admire and love it the way we do!

  6. Sports are entertainment. WNBA isn’t entertaining. I agree that a small population enjoy the WNBA, but it wouldn’t be around with out the NBA. Those are the facts.

  7. Sloane, great piece. I fully appreciate the athleticism and dedication of WNBA players. They are not paid well and thus have to spend much of the year living and playing in crappy conditions in unglamorous foreign countries. Not enough of made of this. But that doesn’t mean people need to support the league or are being unfair for not doing so.
    If you walk into a store and there are two products on the shelf, both are the same price but one is vastly superior to the other, you’re going to consume the superior product. Unfortunately for the WNBA, the NBA is a far superior product. It is the best basketball players in the world competing at the highest level. The league isn’t treated unfairly, Sloane. People just choose the better product.

  8. eric,
    They are paid well. The average WNBA salary is about 80k. that is for about 4 months of work.
    I’m sure alot of people would gladly take that type of pay for that short amount of time.

  9. Mark, the minimum salary for new players is $35k. The league maximum is roughly $100k. That’s fine and I would gladly take 80 for 4 months, but compared to NBA numbers, they’re abysmal. I’m certainly not going to tell someone that 35k or 100k is a small amount of money, but when these athletes look at their male counterparts, their own wallets seem thin. It goes to the larger point of it being an inferior product and its participants being worth less in the market than nba players.

  10. Here’s another way to look at it. And I say this as an absolutely die hard hockey fan:

    The WNBA is making the *exact* same mistakes hockey made. What’s that mistake? Not accepting that you’re a fringe sport, and shoving it down people’s throats. As I said, I’m a hockey nut. I grew up watching Bobby Orr. But I’m from Boston. I’ve skated on frozen ponds. College hockey is big here. *High school* hockey is big here. (I went to high school with the NHL player Bobby Carpenter.) But instead of trying to grow the game in areas where hockey is a natural fit (especially Canada), the NHL decided to shove it down Nashville’s and Miami’s and Phoenix’s throat.

    With the WNBA, it’s not geographic. It’s gender. Men don’t care. Men will never care. Stop trying to make them. I’m one of the rare straight male fans of figure skating and FS absolutely *killed* itself by trying to use a momentary blip (Tonya and Nancy) to expand into the “general sports (male) fan” audience. It was an abysmal failure.

    If you’re a niche sport, play to the niche. The WNBA refuses to. Just like figure skating refused to, and hockey refuses to. FS’s dead (the freakin’ World Championships were on a cable channel nobody gets). Hockey came damn close. Does the WNBA want to be next?

  11. What has anyone done to the WNBA that is unfair? Well, the dismissal of its play as no better than 8th grade CYO is unfair. the constant attempt to compare its players with NBA players is unfair. Part of the reason, I think, that guys are so hostile to WNBA is that NBA players do what these guys never can on the b-ball court. WNBA players play more like these weekend players – only they still do it better than these weekenders ever will. Having to mentally acknowledge that a woman plays better than you results in the insults to the WNBA’s very right to exist even as a fringe sport.

  12. Ping,

    I think an accurate comparision to the WNBA talent level is “excellent but not elite HS boys team”. Thoughts?

  13. Jeff, I just browsed the Mercury roster. Their guards average 5’9″, and their largest player is 6’5″, 189.

    http://www.wnba.com/mercury/roster/

    St. Anthony’s HS in Jersey City, one of the best HS teams in the country, has 6′ guards and 6’4″-6’8″ big men, except they weigh closer to 215. Along with the higher athleticism, longer reach, verticals, weight differences, I definitely take St. Anthony’s…

    Sticking with the NJ theme, Rowan’s roster also compares favorably:

    http://www.rowanathletics.com/roster.aspx?path=mbball&

    6’1 guards and 6’6 forwards, with a much more built muscle mass than the HS team.

    This is one of the more fun debates to have with friends, and a girl broke up with me when I said my school’s best male intramural team would crush the Army women. That was fun.

  14. But an excellent D-II should be able to beat a typical NBA team.

    I’d wager that any of the 300+ D-I college teams would beat the best WNBA team in a best-of-seven series.

    1. i don’t disagree, but it’s sort of insignificant. women aren’t men, men aren’t women. apples and oranges. to me, watching uconn-tennessee in women’s hoops is a delight. crisp passing. brilliant long-range shooting. i just think the wnba lacks the crispness.

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